Twenty-eight percent of 3-pointers taken in the NBA are from the corner, and they go in the basket 3.6 percent more than above the break 3-pointers. The Washington Wizards, with John Wall, are the best shooting team in the league from the corner. This is significant.
[Wizards 3-Pointers in 2012-13 before John Wall.]
[Wizards 3-Pointers in 2012-13 WITH John Wall.]
Twenty-eight percent of 3-pointers taken in the NBA this season are from the corner area, as opposed to “above the break” bombs from deep. Why? The corner has its advantages. It’s closer to the rim (22 feet from the center of the rim instead of 23 feet, 9 inches when beyond the arc above the break). Enough said.
But also, when properly sucked in, the recovering line of defense usually has longer to travel in order to close out on corner shooters. Considering proximity, it’s almost ironic, but factoring both the basket and the corner’s connection to the baseline, it all makes sense. League-wide this season, the corner 3 provides a 3.6 percent advantage over above the break 3s.
All but six NBA teams shoot better from the corner. The Dallas Mavericks do not like the corner 3, apparently, and shoot 4.9 percent better above the break. The Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors shoot like they could care less about the difference between the two 3-pointers—Denver is 0.9 percent better above the break, Toronto is 0.2 percent better from the corner.
The top 10 shooting teams from the corner, percentage-wise, have a cumulative winning percentage of .575. Three of those teams are division leaders; four are currently placed second in their respective division; only two of the top 10, Washington and Charlotte, are out of contention for a playoff spot.
The best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder (39.2 percent from 3 as a team), shoots 8.1 percent better from the corner, tied for the third-highest difference in the league. The second-best overall team from deep, the Golden State Warriors (39.0 percent), shoots 7.2 percent better from the corner. And the third-best 3-point shooting team, the Miami Heat (39.0 percent), shoots 8.2 percent better from the corner. Two of these teams are championship contenders. See the developing pattern?
Then there are the Washington Wizards. Washington is shooting 35.0 percent on all 3-pointers this season, ranked 20th in a 30-team league. The Wizards also have the greatest discrepancy between their ability to hit 3-pointers from the corner and their ability to hit 3-pointers otherwise.
Washington shoots 43.5 percent on corner 3s but just 31.0 percent from above the break. While the league, on average, shoots 3.6 percent better in the corner area, the Wizards have found a way to shoot 12.5 percent better from there. Worth noting that only the Minnesota Timberwolves shoot worse than the Wizards from above the break (28.6 percent).
Washington’s percentage from the corner on the season ranks fourth in the league after the Thunder, Warriors and Heat. Either Randy Wittman needs to figure out how to take more corner 3s, or more likely, his team needs to shoot better above the break. Probably a combination of both. Nonetheless, a Wizards offense built around John Wall should heavily account for the increasingly valued corner 3.
The Wizards already have a high ratio of corner 3s attempted to all 3-point attempts, taking 33.2 percent of their shots from the corner (ranked seventh-highest in the league). The Heat lead the league by attempting 41.5 percent of their 3-pointers from the corner; the Spurs are second with 37.5 percent. For the prolific Thunder and Warriors, only 23.1 percent and 24.3 percent of their taken 3s are from the corner, respectively.
On the surface, the answers are obvious. The Heat have ball creators like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Thus, Shane Battier has attempted the third-most corner 3s on the NBA season (132), where he is shooting 48.5 percent (as opposed to his mere 31.7 percent on above the break 3s). Battier attempts 61.6 percent of his 3s from the corner and his 48.5 percent shooting from that spot is ranked second amongst those who have attempted at least 100 corner 3s this season. Martell Webster is tops in the league from the corner, where he’s made an even 50-of-100 for the Wizards.
The corner 3 is also Bradley Beal’s best spot on the floor. It’s his bread and butter, it seems, especially from the left wing. Beal is 40-for-81 from the corner (49.4 percent) on the season, though he’s attempted more above the break 3s (115), making 28.7 percent. Also, 97.5 percent of Beal’s 40 makes from the corner have been assisted; 90.9 percent of his 33 makes from above the break have been assisted. For this rookie, teamwork works, and he works for teamwork.
The Spurs have a team full of ball movers. Danny Green has attempted 132 corner 3s (tied with Battier for third) and has made 40.2 percent of them. Unlike Battier, Green can also shoot from above the break, where he’s attempted 32 more 3s, shooting 46.3 percent. Other 3-point shooters on the Heat and Spurs have come through from the corner: Ray Allen (43-for-94, 45.7 percent from corner) and Kawhi Leonard (41-for-89, 46.1 percent from the corner), would be your examples.
Conversely, the Warriors and Thunder have ball handlers who are also some of their team’s primary distance shooters. Stephen Curry has attempted the fourth-most above the break 3s in the league (303), where he shoots 42.9 percent. And even though Curry shoots 52.7 percent from the corner, he has attempted just 55 from that area. Ball handlers Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have attempted 233 and 196 above the break 3s respectively (42.5 percent and 34.7 percent shooting, respectively), but each have only attempted 15 and 16 3s from the corner. Just 12.7 percent of Carmelo Anthony’s 308 attempted 3s have come from the corner, but he only shoots 28.2 percent from there anyway. So don’t even bother, Melo.
The corners are best for catching and shooting, penetrating and dishing team basketball. Above the break is where the shooting stars do their thing. And thus, the Wizards’ plans for John Wall and their offense are predicated on the former.
Overall, Washington is ranked tenth in the league in average attempted corner 3s per game (6.2)—and again, their 43.5 percent from the area on the season ranks fourth-best in the NBA. With Wall, it’s a different story.
Since January 7, when the Wizards beat the Oklahoma City Thunder at home (the game before Wall’s season debut), the Wizards have a record of 13-9. Suddenly, during this time span, the Wizards’ 20th-ranked season percentage on all 3-pointers has jumped from 35.0 percent to a league-leading 40.8 percent—the only NBA team above 40 percent. Washington’s percentage on corner 3s since January 7 is 50.7 percent, also tops in the league, with no other team achieving the 50 percent mark.
“With John’s penetration it collapses the defense, you can now compress your guys down to the baseline a little bit more, because of the penetration,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman when I asked about his team’s success from the corner. “And then the stopping of the penetration, it’s a little bit easier pass. John has the ability to get to the rim and you don’t want to have to force that pass backwards. You want [the shooter] to slide with him, which creates a corner 3, through that penetration.”
All except two of Washington’s 73 made corner 3s since January 7 have been assisted. Wall has accounted for 27 of those assists, Nene for 11, and A.J. Price for 10; Webster and Beal aren’t to shabby in their passing, either, with six and seven corner 3 assists, respectively. In total, almost half (31) of those corner 3s have been the result of dribble penetration, and Wall has been the passer on 18 of those times.
Martell Webster has accounted for 28 of Washington’s 73 made corner 3s during the time period and is making them at the rate of 53.8 percent. Among those NBA players who qualify to be a league leader in a stat category, he ranks fifth in overall 3-point percentage for the season at 44.6 percent.
Webster provided a slightly different perspective on the corner 3 than his coach.
“It’s all about rotations when you think about it,” said Webster. “If a guard’s penetrating and he kicks back out to the wing, [the defense] rotates out there and leaves the corner wide open. If it was vice-versa, if a guard penetrates and kicks to the corner, you swing it out top. But mostly it’s penetrate, kick to the wing.”
To Webster’s point, if 42 percent of Washington’s corner 3s have been the result of simple dribble penetration and one pass, and if only around 12 percent of corner 3s are the result of a push in transition or early offense, then a bunch of corner 3s are happening in manners otherwise. They come via cross-court passes out of pick-and-roll or double-team action, or via offensive rebound tip-outs, or via passes out of the post.
But, 22 percent of Washington’s corner 3s since January 7 have been the result of a hockey assist, usually swung around the perimeter, but sometimes from a quick feed and kick out of the high post. We’d love for NBA.com, or some statistical website, to start tracking hockey assists—in order to know who first passes to ball to get it moving (even though an assist in itself can be relatively superfluous when it comes to distilling advanced stats). However, it’s understandable that the second passer, the guy who keeps the ball moving, gets all the credit. Of those 16 hockey assists, Nene has been the facilitator five times and Webster five times as well.
So, you see, it is all about rotations. But it’s also about the attention Wall attracts and the speed with which he counters defenses. It’s also about sharing. When planning for 3-point success and cohesive offense, ball stoppers—those who have plagued this Wizards franchise in the past—need not apply.
In total, with John Wall in uniform, the Wizards have increased their overall 3-point percentage by 7.8, their above the break 3-point percentage by 5.2, and their corner 3-point percentage by 9.7. In a league obviously trending toward the best teams taking advantage of quickness, athleticism, spacing, and shooters, Wall is the most valuable tool in the shed to help turn the Wizards into winners.
But alas, he certainly can’t do it alone. And what the Wizards really need is not lost on Wittman: “Putting guys around him that can knock that shot down is obviously the most important aspect of it.”
With Wall, the Washington Wizards are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, especially from the corner, but none of it happens without players like Martell Webster and Bradley Beal.
[Stats via NBA.com, taken from games played through Sunday, February 24, 2013. Against Toronto on Monday night, the Wizards went 4-for-5 on corner 3s, with Price, Beal, Webster, and Ariza each sinking one -- all makes were assisted. Washington finished 3-for-7 on 3s from above the break.]